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Spencer Perceval

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Subject: Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool, William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, John Bellingham, Nicholas Vansittart, 1st Baron Bexley, 1812 in the United Kingdom
Collection: 1762 Births, 1812 Deaths, 19Th-Century Heads of Government, Alumni of Trinity College, Cambridge, Assassinated English Politicians, Assassinated Heads of Government, Attorneys General for England and Wales, British Mps 1796–1800, Chancellors of the Duchy of Lancaster, Chancellors of the Exchequer of Great Britain, Deaths by Firearm in England, Leaders of the House of Commons, Members of the Parliament of Great Britain for English Constituencies, Members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom for English Constituencies, Members of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, People Educated at Harrow School, People from London, People from Northamptonshire, People Murdered in London, Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, Solicitors General for England and Wales, Tory Mps (Pre-1834), Tory Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom, Uk Mps 1801–02, Uk Mps 1802–06, Uk Mps 1806–07, Uk Mps 1807–12, Younger Sons of Earls
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Spencer Perceval

The Right Honourable
Spencer Perceval
Spencer Perceval painted by George Francis Joseph, 1812
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
In office
4 October 1809 – 11 May 1812
Monarch George III
Preceded by The Duke of Portland
Succeeded by The Earl of Liverpool
Regent Prince George
Chancellor of the Exchequer
In office
26 March 1807 – 11 May 1812
Prime Minister The Duke of Portland
Preceded by Lord Henry Petty
Succeeded by Nicholas Vansittart
Personal details
Born (1762-11-01)1 November 1762
Mayfair, Middlesex, Great Britain
Died 11 May 1812(1812-05-11) (aged 49)
Westminster, Middlesex, United Kingdom
Political party Tory
Spouse(s) Jane
Children Jane
Alma mater Trinity College, Cambridge
Religion Church of England (Evangelical)
Signature Cursive signature in ink
1Britain under the Regency era

Spencer Perceval, KC (1 November 1762 – 11 May 1812) was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 4 October 1809 until his death on 11 May 1812.[1] He is the only British prime minister to have been assassinated. He is also the only solicitor general or attorney general to have been prime minister.

The younger son of an Irish earl, Perceval was educated at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge. He studied law at Lincoln’s Inn, practised as a barrister on the Midland circuit and in 1796 became a King’s Counsel before entering politics at the age of 33 as a Member of Parliament for Northampton. A follower of William Pitt, Perceval always described himself as a "friend of Mr Pitt" rather than a Tory. Perceval was opposed to Catholic emancipation and reform of Parliament; he supported the war against Napoleon and the abolition of the slave trade. He was opposed to hunting, gambling and adultery, did not drink as much as most Members of Parliament, gave generously to charity, and enjoyed spending time with his twelve children.

After a late entry into politics, his rise to power was rapid; he was solicitor and then attorney general in the Prince Regent. His position was looking stronger by the spring of 1812, when he was assassinated by John Bellingham, a merchant with a grievance against the government, who shot him dead in the lobby of the House of Commons.

Although Perceval was a seventh son and had four older brothers who survived to adulthood, the Earldom of Egmont reverted to one of his great-grandsons in the early 20th century and remained in the hands of his descendants until its extinction in 2011.


  • Childhood and education 1
  • Legal career and marriage 2
  • Early political career 1796–1801 3
  • Solicitor and attorney general 1801–1806 4
  • Chancellor of the Exchequer 1807–1809 5
  • Prime minister 1809–1812 6
  • Assassination 7
  • Legacy 8
  • Family 9
  • Spencer Perceval's administration, October 1809 – May 1812 10
    • Changes 10.1
  • See also 11
  • References 12
  • Further reading 13
  • External links 14

Childhood and education

Perceval studied at Trinity College, Cambridge.

Perceval was born in Audley Square, 4th Earl of Northampton. Spencer was a Compton family name; Catherine Compton's great uncle Spencer Compton, 1st Earl of Wilmington, had been prime minister.

His father, a political advisor to First Lord of the Admiralty. Perceval’s early childhood was spent at Charlton House, which his father had taken to be near Woolwich docks.[2]

Perceval’s father died when he was eight. Perceval went to Harrow School, where he was a disciplined and hard-working pupil. It was at Harrow that he developed an interest in evangelical Anglicanism and formed what was to be a lifelong friendship with Dudley Ryder. After five years at Harrow he followed his older brother Charles to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he won the declamation prize in English and graduated in 1782.[3]

Legal career and marriage

As the second son of a second marriage, and with an allowance of only £200 a year (equivalent to about £28,000 in 2014[4]), Perceval faced the prospect of having to make his own way in life. He chose the law as a profession, studied at Lincoln’s Inn, and was called to the bar in 1786. Perceval’s mother had died in 1783, and Perceval and his brother Charles, now Lord Arden, rented a house in Charlton, where they fell in love with two sisters who were living in the Percevals' old childhood home. The sisters’ father, Sir Thomas Spencer Wilson, approved of the match between his eldest daughter Margaretta and Lord Arden, who was wealthy and already a Member of Parliament and a Lord of the Admiralty. Perceval, who was at that time an impecunious barrister on the Midland Circuit, was told to wait until the younger daughter, Jane, came of age in three years’ time. When Jane reached 21, in 1790, Perceval’s career was still not prospering, and Sir Thomas still opposed the marriage, so the couple eloped and married by special licence in East Grinstead. They set up home together in lodgings over a carpet shop in Bedford Row,[5] later moving to Lindsey House, Lincoln's Inn Fields.

Perceval’s family connections obtained a number of positions for him: Deputy Recorder of Northampton, and commissioner of bankrupts in 1790; surveyor of the Maltings and clerk of the irons in the mint — a sinecure worth £119 a year – in 1791; counsel to the Board of Admiralty in 1794. He acted as junior counsel for the Crown in the prosecutions of Thomas Paine in absentia for seditious libel (1792), and John Horne Tooke for high treason (1794). Perceval joined the Light Horse Volunteers in 1794 when the country was under threat of invasion by France.

Perceval wrote anonymous pamphlets in favour of the impeachment of Warren Hastings, and in defence of public order against sedition. These pamphlets brought him to the attention of William Pitt the Younger, and in 1795 he was offered the appointment of Chief Secretary for Ireland. He declined the offer.[6] He could earn more as a barrister and needed the money to support his growing family. In 1796 he became a King’s Counsel and had an income of about £1000 a year (equivalent to about £101,000 in 2014[4]).[7][8]

Early political career 1796–1801

In 1796, Perceval’s uncle, the 8th Earl of Northampton, died. Perceval’s cousin, who was MP for Northampton, succeeded to the earldom and took his place in the House of Lords. Perceval was invited to stand for election in his place. In the May by-election he was elected unopposed, but weeks later had to defend his seat in a fiercely contested general election. Northampton had an electorate of about one thousand — every male householder not in receipt of poor relief had a vote — and the town had a strong radical tradition. Perceval stood for the Castle Ashby interest, Edward Bouverie for the Whigs, and William Walcot for the corporation. After a disputed count Perceval and Bouverie were returned. Perceval represented Northampton until his death 16 years later, and is the only MP for Northampton to have held the office of prime minister. Seventeen ninety-six was his first and last contested election; in the general elections of 1802, 1806 and 1807 Perceval and Bouverie were returned unopposed.[7]

When Perceval took his seat in the House of Commons in September 1796 his political views were already formed. "He was for the constitution and Pitt; he was against Fox and France", wrote his biographer Denis Gray.[7] During the 1796–1797 session he made several speeches, always reading from notes. His public speaking skills had been sharpened at the Crown and Rolls debating society when he was a law student. After taking his seat in the House of Commons, Perceval continued with his legal practice as MPs did not receive a salary, and the House only sat for a part of the year. During the Parliamentary recess of the summer of 1797 he was senior counsel for the Crown in the prosecution of John Binns for sedition. Binns, who was defended by Samuel Romilly, was found not guilty. The fees from his legal practice allowed Perceval to take out a lease on a country house, Belsize House in Hampstead.[7]

It was during the next session of Parliament, in January 1798, that Perceval established his reputation as a debater — and his prospects as a future minister — with a speech in support of the Assessed Taxes Bill (a bill to increase the taxes on houses, windows, male servants, horses and carriages, in order to finance the war against France). He used the occasion to mount an attack on Charles Fox and his demands for reform. Pitt described the speech as one of the best he had ever heard, and later that year Perceval was given the post of Solicitor to the Ordnance.[7]

Solicitor and attorney general 1801–1806

The House of Commons circa 1806

Pitt resigned in 1801 when the King and Cabinet opposed his bill for Catholic emancipation. As Perceval shared the King’s views on Catholic emancipation he did not feel obliged to follow Pitt into opposition and his career continued to prosper during Henry Addington’s administration. He was appointed solicitor general in 1801 and attorney general the following year. Perceval did not agree with Addington's general policies (especially on foreign policy), and confined himself to speeches on legal issues. He kept the position of attorney general when Addington resigned and Pitt formed his second ministry in 1804. As attorney general Perceval was involved with the prosecution of radicals Edward Despard and William Cobbett, but was also responsible for more liberal decisions on trade unions, and for improving the conditions of convicts transported to New South Wales.[7]

When Pitt died, in January 1806, Perceval was an emblem bearer at his funeral and, although he had little money to spare (by now he had eleven children), he contributed £1000 towards a fund to pay off Pitt’s debts. He resigned as attorney general, refusing to serve in Lord Grenville’s ministry of "all the talents" as it included Fox. Instead he became the leader of the Pittite opposition in the House of Commons.[7]

During his period in opposition, Perceval’s legal skills were put to use to defend The Book", it was described by Perceval’s biographer as "the last and greatest production of his legal career".[7] When the King refused to let Caroline return to court, Perceval threatened publication of The Book. But Grenville’s ministry fell – again over a difference of opinion with the King on the Catholic question – before The Book could be distributed and, as a member of the new government, Perceval drafted a cabinet minute acquitting Caroline on all charges and recommending her return to court. He had a bonfire of The Book at Lindsey House and large sums of government money were spent on buying back stray copies, but a few remained at large and The Book was published soon after his death.[7]

Chancellor of the Exchequer 1807–1809

On the resignation of Grenville, the Duke of Portland put together a ministry of Pittites and asked Perceval to become Chancellor of the Exchequer and Leader of the House of Commons. Perceval would have preferred to remain attorney general or become home secretary, and pleaded ignorance of financial affairs. He agreed to take the position when the salary (smaller than that of the Home Office) was augmented by the Duchy of Lancaster. Lord Hawkesbury (later Liverpool) recommended him to the King by explaining that he came from an old English family and shared the King’s views on the Catholic question.[7]

Perceval’s youngest child, Ernest Augustus, was born soon after Perceval became chancellor (Princess Caroline was godmother). Jane Perceval became ill after the birth and the family moved out of the damp and draughty Belsize House, spending a few months in Lord Teignmouth’s house in Clapham before finding a suitable country house in Ealing. Elm Grove was a 16th-century house that had been the home of the Bishop of Durham;[9] Perceval paid £7,500 for it in 1808 (borrowing from his brother Lord Arden and the trustees of Jane’s dowry) and the Perceval family’s long association with Ealing began. Meanwhile, in town, Perceval had moved from Lindsey House into 10 Downing Street, when the Duke of Portland moved back to Burlington House shortly after becoming prime minister.[7]

One of Perceval’s first tasks in Cabinet was to expand the Orders in Council that had been brought in by the previous administration and were designed to restrict the trade of neutral countries with France, in retaliation to Napoleon’s embargo on British trade. He was also responsible for ensuring that Wilberforce’s bill on the abolition of the slave trade, which had still not passed its final stages in the House of Lords when Grenville’s ministry fell, would not "fall between the two ministries" and be rejected in a snap division.[7] Perceval was one of the founding members of the African Institute, which was set up in April 1807 to safeguard the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act.[7]

As Chancellor of the Exchequer, Perceval had to raise money to finance the war against Napoleon. This he managed to do in his budgets of 1808 and 1809 without increasing taxes, by raising loans at reasonable rates and making economies. As leader of the House of Commons he had to deal with a strong opposition, which challenged the government over the conduct of the war, Catholic emancipation, corruption and Parliamentary reform. Perceval successfully defended the commander-in-chief of the army, the Duke of York, against charges of corruption when the Duke’s ex-mistress Mary Anne Clarke claimed to have sold army commissions with his knowledge. Although Parliament voted to acquit the Duke of the main charge, his conduct was criticised and he accepted Perceval’s advice to resign. (He was to be re-instated in 1811).[7]

Portland’s ministry contained three future prime-ministers – Perceval, Lord Hawkesbury and Lord Eldon and Lord Castlereagh. But Portland was not a strong leader and his health was failing. The country was plunged into political crisis in the summer of 1809 as Canning schemed against Castlereagh and the Duke of Portland resigned following a stroke. Negotiations began to find a new prime minister: Canning wanted to be either prime minister or nothing, Perceval was prepared to serve under a third person, but not Canning. The remnants of the cabinet decided to invite Lord Grey and Lord Grenville to form "an extended and combined administration"[7] in which Perceval was hoping for the home secretaryship. But Grenville and Grey refused to enter into negotiations, and the King accepted the Cabinet’s recommendation of Perceval for his new prime minister. Perceval kissed the King’s hands on 4 October and set about forming his Cabinet, a task made more difficult by the fact that Castlereagh and Canning had ruled themselves out of consideration by fighting a duel (which Perceval had tried to prevent). Having received five refusals for the office, he had to serve as his own Chancellor of the Exchequer – characteristically declining to accept the salary.[7]

Prime minister 1809–1812

A painting depicting the assassination of Perceval. Perceval is lying on the ground while his assassin, John Bellingham, is surrendering to officials (far right)

The new ministry was not expected to last. It was especially weak in the Commons, where Perceval had only one cabinet member – Home Secretary Richard Ryder – and had to rely on the support of backbenchers in debate. In the first week of the new Parliamentary session in January 1810 the government lost four divisions, one on a motion for an inquiry into the Walcheren expedition (in which, the previous summer, a military force intending to seize Antwerp had instead withdrawn after losing many men to an epidemic on the island of Walcheren) and three on the composition of the finance committee. The government survived the inquiry into the Walcheren expedition at the cost of the resignation of the expedition’s leader Lord Chatham. The radical MP Sir Francis Burdett was committed to the Tower of London for having published a letter in William Cobbett’s Political Register denouncing the government’s exclusion of the press from the inquiry. It took three days, owing to various blunders, to execute the warrant for Burdett’s arrest. The mob took to the streets in support of Burdett, troops were called out, and there were fatal casualties. As Chancellor, Perceval continued to find the funds to finance Wellington’s campaign in the Iberian Peninsula, whilst contracting a lower debt than his predecessors or successors.[7]

King George III had celebrated his Golden Jubilee in 1809; by the following autumn he was showing signs of a return of the illness that had led to a Regency in 1788. The prospect of another Regency was not attractive to Perceval, as the Prince of Wales was known to favour Whigs and disliked Perceval for the part he had played in the "delicate investigation". Twice Parliament was adjourned in November 1810, as doctors gave optimistic reports about the King’s chances of a return to health. In December select committees of the Lords and Commons heard evidence from the doctors, and Perceval finally wrote to the Prince of Wales on 19 December saying that he planned the next day to introduce a regency bill. As with Pitt’s bill in 1788, there would be restrictions: the regent’s powers to create peers and award offices and pensions would be restricted for 12 months, the Queen would be responsible for the care of the King, and the King’s private property would be looked after by trustees.

Spencer Perceval painted by George Francis Joseph in 1816

The Prince of Wales, supported by the Opposition, objected to the restrictions, but Perceval steered the bill through Parliament. Everyone had expected the Regent to change his ministers but, surprisingly, he chose to retain his old enemy Perceval. The official reason given by the Regent was that he did not wish to do anything to aggravate his father’s illness. The King signed the regency bill on 5 February, the Regent took the royal oath the following day and Parliament formally opened for the 1811 session. The session was largely taken up with problems in Ireland, economic depression and the bullion controversy in England (a bill was passed to make bank notes legal tender), and military operations in the peninsula.[7]

The restrictions on the Regency expired in February 1812, the King was still showing no signs of recovery, and the Prince Regent decided, after an unsuccessful attempt to persuade Grey and Grenville to join the government, to retain Perceval and his ministers. Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, after intrigues with the Prince Regent, resigned as foreign secretary and was replaced by Castlereagh. The opposition meanwhile was mounting an attack on the Orders in Council, which had caused a crisis in relations with America and were widely blamed for depression and unemployment in England. Rioting had broken out in the Midlands and North, and been harshly repressed. Henry Brougham's motion for a select committee was defeated in the Commons, but, under continuing pressure from manufacturers, the government agreed to set up a Committee of the Whole House to consider the Orders in Council and their impact on trade and manufacture. The committee began its examination of witnesses in early May 1812.[7]


Nineteenth-century illustration of Perceval's assassination in the Newgate Calendar

At 5:15 pm, on the evening of 11 May 1812, Perceval was on his way to attend the inquiry into the Orders in Council. As he entered the lobby of the House of Commons, a man stepped forward, drew a pistol and shot him in the chest. Perceval fell to the floor, after uttering something that was variously heard as "murder" and "oh my god".[10] They were his last words. By the time he had been carried into an adjoining room and propped up on a table with his feet on two chairs, he was senseless, although there was still a faint pulse. When a surgeon arrived a few minutes later, the pulse had stopped, and Perceval was declared dead.[7]

At first it was feared that the shot might signal the start of an uprising, but it soon became apparent that the assassin—who had made no attempt to escape—was a man with an obsessive grievance against the Government and had acted alone. The assassin, John Bellingham, was a merchant who believed he had been unjustly imprisoned in Russia and was entitled to compensation from the government, but all his petitions had been rejected.[10] Perceval’s body was laid on a sofa in the speaker’s drawing room and removed to Number 10 in the early hours of 12 May. That same morning an inquest was held at the Cat and Bagpipes public house on the corner of Downing Street and a verdict of wilful murder was returned.[7]

Perceval left a widow and twelve children aged between three and twenty, and there were soon rumours that he had not left them well provided for. He had just £106 5s 1d in the bank when he died.[11] A few days after his death, Parliament voted to settle £50,000 on Perceval’s children, with additional annuities for his widow and eldest son.[10] Jane Perceval married Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Carr, brother of the Reverend Robert James Carr, then Vicar of Brighton, in 1815 and was widowed again six years later. She died aged 74 in 1844.

Perceval was buried on 16 May in the Egmont vault at St Luke's Church, Charlton. At his widow's request, it was a private funeral. Lord Eldon, Lord Liverpool, Lord Harrowby and Richard Ryder were the pall-bearers. The previous day, Bellingham had been tried, and, refusing to enter a plea of insanity, was found guilty. He was hanged on 18 May.[10]

In a curious echo Henry Bellingham, who says he is descended from a relative of Bellingham's, was elected in 1983 as the Member of Parliament for North West Norfolk. In 1997 he lost the seat by 1,339 votes. This could be attributed in part to the 2,923 votes received by the Referendum Party candidate Roger Percival, who newspapers claimed to be descended from Perceval.[12]


Perceval's statue at Northampton Guildhall by Sir Francis Chantrey, 1817
Memorial at Lincoln's Inn

Perceval was a small, slight, and very pale man, who usually dressed in black. Lord Eldon called him "Little P".[5] He never sat for a full-sized portrait; likenesses are either miniatures or are based on a death mask by

Political offices
Preceded by
Lord Henry Petty
Chancellor of the Exchequer
Succeeded by
Nicholas Vansittart
Preceded by
Viscount Howick
Leader of the House of Commons
Succeeded by
Viscount Castlereagh
Preceded by
The Earl of Derby
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
Succeeded by
The Earl of Buckinghamshire
Preceded by
The Duke of Portland
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
4 October 1809 – 11 May 1812
Succeeded by
The Earl of Liverpool
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Lord Compton
Hon. Edward Bouverie
Member of Parliament for Northampton
with Hon. Edward Bouverie 1796–1810
William Hanbury 1810–1812

Succeeded by
William Hanbury Bateman
Earl Compton
Legal offices
Preceded by
Sir William Grant
Solicitor General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Thomas Manners-Sutton
Preceded by
Sir Edward Law
Attorney General for England and Wales
Succeeded by
Sir Arthur Pigott
  • Portraits of Spencer Perceval at the National Portrait Gallery, London
  • Spencer Perceval, the assassinated prime minister that history forgot in The Guardian
  • Spencer Perceval on the Downing Street website.
  • Articles about Spencer Perceval on the website of All Saints Church, Ealing
  • Spencer Perceval's assassination at the National Archives
  • Spencer Perceval's assassination in the Parliamentary Archives
  • Spencer Perceval's memorial in Westminster Abbey
  • A short article about Spencer Perceval and Ealing in the Ealing Civic Society newsletter
  • Archival material relating to Spencer Perceval listed at the UK National Archives
  • Works by or about Spencer Perceval in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • Family of the Earls of Egmont at Cracroft's Peerage
  • Spencer Perceval in the Parliamentary Archives

External links

  • David C. Hanrahan, The Assassination of the Prime Minister: John Bellingham and the Murder of Spencer Perceval (Sutton Publishing, 2008)
  • A. Linklater, Why Spencer Perceval Had To Die: the Assassination of a British Prime Minister (Bloomsbury, 2012)
  • Spencer Walpole, The Life of the Rt Hon Spencer Perceval (2 vols., 1874)

Further reading

  1. ^ Spencer Perceval Tory 1809 to 1812. "History of Spencer Perceval - GOV.UK". Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  2. ^ P. Treherne 1909 The Right Honourable Spencer Perceval. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
  3. ^ "Perceval, the Hon. Spencer (PRCL780S)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge. 
  4. ^ a b "Inflation Calculator | Bank of England". Retrieved 2015-05-11. 
  5. ^ a b c d L. Iremonger 1970 The Fiery Chariot: a study of British Prime Ministers and the search for love. London: Secker and Warburg.
  6. ^ R.G. Thorne 1986 Perceval, Hon. Spencer. In The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1790–1820, vol IV. London: Secker & Warburg, 764–774.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w D. Gray 1963 Spencer Perceval: the evangelical prime minister 1762–1812. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  8. ^ Perceval was 33 when he became a King’s Counsel, making him one of the youngest ever.
  9. ^ C. M. Neaves 1971 [1931] A History of Greater Ealing, 2nd edition. Wakefield: S.R. Publications.
  10. ^ a b c d e f M. Gillen 1972 Assassination of the Prime Minister: the shocking death of Spencer Perceval. London: Sidgwick & Jackson ISBN 0-283-97881-3.
  11. ^ H. Bolitho and D. Peel 1967 The Drummonds of Charing Cross. London: George Allen & Unwin
  12. ^ "Election '97: Old feuds may give Labour a Norfolk seat - News". The Independent. 1997-04-22. Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  13. ^ R.E. Foster. "Little P": the life and times of Spencer Perceval. History Review, December 2005: 13–18.
  14. ^ Adams, Henry, History of the United States of America during the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson, ISBN 0-940450-34-8, p. 966.
  15. ^ "Spencer Perceval: Plaque for assassinated prime minister". BBC. 2014-07-21. Retrieved 2013-10-29. 
  16. ^ H. Gault 2010 Living history: a family's 19th century. Cambridge: Gretton Books.


See also

  • December, 1809 – Lord Wellesley succeeds Lord Bathurst as foreign secretary. Bathurst continues at the Board of Trade.
  • May, 1810 – Lord Mulgrave succeeds Lord Chatham as Master-General of the Ordnance. Charles Philip Yorke succeeds Mulgrave as First Lord of the Admiralty.
  • March, 1812 – Lord Castlereagh succeeds Lord Wellesley as foreign secretary.
  • April, 1812 – Lord Sidmouth succeeds Lord Camden as lord president. Camden remains in the cabinet as a minister without portfolio.


Spencer Perceval's administration, October 1809 – May 1812

  • Jane (1791–1824) married her cousin Edward Perceval, son of Lord Arden, in 1821 and lived in Felpham, Sussex. She died three years after marrying, apparently in childbirth.
  • Frances (1792–1877) lived with her mother and three unmarried sisters in Elm Grove, Ealing. On her mother’s death the sisters moved to nearby Pitzhanger Manor House, while her brother Spencer took over Elm Grove.
  • Maria (1794–1877) lived with her unmarried sisters in Ealing.
  • Spencer (1795–1859) was, like his father, educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. After Perceval's assassination Spencer junior had been voted an annuity of £1000, free legal training at Lincoln's Inn and a tellership of the Exchequer, all of which left him financially secure. He became a Member of Parliament at the age of 22 and in 1821 married Anna, a daughter of the chief of the clan Macleod, with whom he had eleven children. He joined the Catholic Apostolic Church and was created an apostle in 1833. He served as a metropolitan lunacy commissioner.
  • Charles (born and died 1796)
  • Frederick (1797–1861) was the only one of Perceval's sons not to go to Harrow. Due to his fragile health he was sent to school at Rottingdean. He married for the first time in 1827, spent some time in Ghent, Belgium, was a director of the Clerical, Medical and General Life Assurance Society and a justice of the peace for Middlesex and for Kent, but generally led a quiet and retired life. Widowed in 1843, he married for the second time the following year. A grandson, Frederick Joseph Trevelyan Perceval, who was a Canadian rancher, became the 10th Earl of Egmont.
  • Henry (1799–1885) was educated at Harrow, where he was the only Perceval to become head of school. He went to Brasenose College, Oxford. In 1826 he married his cousin Catherine Drummond. For 46 years Henry was the rector of Elmley Lovett in Worcestershire.
  • Dudley (1800–1856) was educated at Harrow and Christ Church, Oxford. Like his brother Spencer, he was given free legal training at Lincoln's Inn but was not called to the bar. He spent two years as an administrator at the Cape of Good Hope, where he married a daughter of the Governor in 1827. Back in England he obtained a treasury post and defended his father's reputation after it was attacked in Napier's history of the Peninsular War. In 1853 he stood unsuccessfully against William Gladstone in the election for an MP to represent Oxford University.
  • Isabella (1801–1886) married her cousin Spencer Horatio Walpole in 1835 and was the only one of Perceval's daughters to have children. Her husband was a lawyer who became an MP in 1846 and served as home secretary. They lived in the Hall on Ealing Green, next-door to Isabella's four unmarried sisters.
  • John Thomas (1803–1876) was educated at Harrow. After a three-year career as an officer in the Grenadier Guards and a term at Oxford University, he spent three years in asylums and became a campaigner for reform of the Lunacy Laws. In 1832, just after his release from an asylum, he married a cheesemonger's daughter.
  • Louisa (1804–1891) lived with her unmarried sisters in Ealing.
  • Frederica (1805–1900) lived with her unmarried sisters in Ealing. In her will she left money to build All Saints Church, Ealing, in memory of her father (he was born on All Saints Day). It is also known as the Spencer Perceval Memorial Church.
  • Ernest (1807–1896) was educated at Harrow. He spent nine years in the 15th Hussars, seven of them as a captain. In 1830 he married his cousin Beatrice Trevelyan. They settled in Somerset and raised a large family. Ernest served as private secretary to the Home Office on three occasions.[16]

Spencer and Jane Perceval had thirteen children, of whom twelve survived to adulthood.


In July 2014, a memorial plaque was unveiled in St Stephen's Hall, Houses of Parliament, close to the place where Perceval was killed. Michael Ellis, Conservative MP for Northampton North (part of Perceval's old Northampton constituency) had campaigned for the plaque.[15]

American historian Henry Adams suggested that it was this picture of Perceval that stayed in the minds of Liberals for a whole generation.[14]

If I lived at Hampstead upon stewed meats and claret; if I walked to church every Sunday before eleven young gentlemen of my own begetting, with their faces washed, and their hair pleasingly combed; if the Almighty had blessed me with every earthly comfort-- how awfully would I pause before I sent forth the flame and the sword over the cabins of the poor, brave, generous, open-hearted peasants of Ireland!

One of Perceval's most noted critics, especially on the question of Catholic emancipation, was the cleric Sydney Smith. In Peter Plymley's Letters Smith writes:

Perceval's assassination inspired poems such as Universal sympathy on the martyr'd statesman (1812):

Perceval was mourned by many; Lord Chief Justice Sir James Mansfield wept during his summing up to the jury at Bellingham's trial.[10] But in some quarters he was unpopular and in Nottingham the crowds that gathered following his assassination were in more cheerful mood.[10] Public monuments to Perceval were erected in Northampton, Lincoln's Inn and Westminster Abbey. Four biographies have been published: a book on his life and administration by Charles Verulam Williams, which appeared soon after his death; his grandson Spencer Walpole's biography in 1894; Philip Treherne's short biography in 1909; Denis Gray's 500-page political biography in 1963. In addition there are three books about his assassination, one by Mollie Gillen, one by David Hanrahan, and the latest by Andro Linklater entitled Why Spencer Perceval Had to Die.

[7] Perceval's modern biographer, Denis Gray, described him as "a herald of the Victorians".[13], used a naval analogy to describe Perceval: "He is not a ship-of-the-line, but he carries many guns, is tight-built and is out in all weathers".Henry Grattan Although not considered an inspirational leader, he is generally seen as a devout, industrious, principled man who at the head of a weak government steered the country through difficult times. A contemporary MP [5]

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